Due to the COVID-19 pandemic a stay was imposed by the courts on residential possession claims (and appeals in residential possession claims) until 23 August 2020. A new practice direction has been introduced, which sets out how residential possession claims will be dealt with by the courts from 24 August 2020.
A “stayed claim” is a claim that is brought on or before 22 August 2020. The new practice direction 55C provides that, unless the court directs otherwise, no stayed claim is to be listed, re-listed, heard, or referred to a judge unless one of the parties files and serves a “reactivation notice”.
The reactivation notice must set out what knowledge the party has as to the effect of the pandemic on the defendant and their dependants. If the reactivation notice is filed by the claimant and the claim is based on arrears of rent, the claimant must also provide an updated rent account covering a two-year period.
It should be noted that there is an exemption in respect of reactivation notices for any claim brought on or after 3 August 2020 (see further information below) and for any stayed claim in which a final order for possession has been made.
Unless it directs otherwise, the court will give at least 21 days’ notice of any hearing listed or relisted in response to a reactivation notice. If a reactivation notice is not filed and served before 29 January 2021 the claim will be automatically stayed.
In any claim brought on or after the 3 August 2020, whether new or stayed, the claimant must serve on the defendant 14 days prior to the hearing (and bring to the hearing) two copies of a notice setting out what knowledge they have as to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the defendant and their dependants. If the possession claim is issued using the accelerated possession claims procedure, the claimant must file this notice with the claim form.
There will be a requirement in all claims for possession, whether new or stayed, for the claimant set out to the court what knowledge they have as to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the defendant and their dependants. However, there is no requirement for investigations to be carried out by or on behalf of the Claimant.
It remains to be seen as to whether or not it will be sufficient for a party to state that they have “no knowledge” of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic upon the defendant and their dependants. Where the information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings.
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